Bow Wow’s evolution isn’t the norm for most child rappers. He made his first appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show" when he was just 6 years old. At 13, he released his ’00 double platinum debut, “Beware of Dog.” Later, he made the transition to acting with films such as “Like Mike” and “Roll Bounce.” Although many assumed he’d eventually fade away like most child stars, he’s just getting started.
Now gearing up for "The Lottery Ticket," his third lead role, Bow Wow, 22, is ready to tackle the business. With a new Tyler Perry film in the works and plans to step behind the camera as a director, he says he hasn’t turned his back on music. BET.com caught up with him to talk about "The Lottery Ticket," channeling the late-great Tupac and working with fellow newcomer, Brandon T. Jackson.
Tell us about "The Lottery Ticket."
Bow Wow: In the movie I play the main character, Kevin Carson. He goes to the store to play the lottery ticket for his grandmother like he usually does, but it just so happens that this is one of the worst days of his life. He ends up just playing it like, “I done lost everything today,” so I might as well just play. And nobody knows he won. He has to keep it secret until the next business day, which is Monday. But it’s 4th of July weekend and unfortunately living in the hood—it’s hard to keep a secret and once everybody finds out all hell breaks loose.
There were some scenes where the acting was really intense. What was preparation like for the movie?
For myself, the preparation was kind of easy because I take what I do very seriously. I watched a lot of movies—me and Brandon [T. Jackson] collectively—because we had to do a lot of scenes together we watched a lot of movies with two main characters. We watched "Friday," the first one. We watched "Pineapple Express." Wherever there was a duo type of thing going on in the movie, we watched it and it helped us. We tried to see what we could get from what they were doing and make it work as our own.
Is it true you want to go the Will Smith route?
Yeah. I’m not turning my back on music anytime soon but it’s just a blessing to have options open. A lot of artists just have rap and that’s it. But once rap stops it’s hard to get into that Hollywood circle, it really is. It’s a whole ’nother beast that people think they’re ready for, but they’re really not. So for myself I just said, “You know what, 8 albums, that’s a lot.” I’m not even 24 years old yet but if you look at it and break it down, I’ve been doing it since I was a youngin’, like 16 years of doing music. Now that I got this acting thing here in my hands it’s like, okay cool, this is another challenge. It’s like, let me step into this realm and see if I can dominate this just like how I did with music. I sold out Madison Square Garden two times in one year, I sold out the Garden six times and that stuff never gets old. But you get relaxed and you’re like, “I could do this at any time and I want a challenge now.” A challenge is acting.
You did work with some OGs like Ice Cube and Charlie Murphy. What did you learn from them?
It’s crazy because if you ask them they’ll probably tell you, “Bow don’t need nothing.” [laughs] The only person I probably spoke to was Cube because he’s a rapper still and he’s in Hollywood. He’s one of the few hip-hop artists that’s doing it the right way so we chopped it up a little bit. I’m the type of person that just—I want to do it myself. I don’t want to ask nobody. I never want to look back like, “Oh this person and this person helped me.” Let me do it on my own, I got it on my own and that’s it. But Cube was the only one I talked to.
Where did you draw inspiration from for your character?
I watched “Juice,” that’s where I got the energy from for that scene on the roof like that.
You channeled Bishop aka Tupac.
Yeah. It’s weird because every movie that I do is always a role that reminds me of a role that ’Pac would have done. And when ’Pac did “Juice,” he was young—probably like 21, 22—something like that. And that’s my favorite actor. I know it might be weird to say, but he was talented on screen and that’s who I studied.
A little birdy said that there were a lot of women on set, like it was a music video. What’s up with that?
There was a lot of extras, but one thing I don’t do is mix pleasure with business. So if there were a lot of cute girls on set I might look but I’m focused on what I have to do and have tunnel vision. But Brandon is a comedian so he’ll goof off and run around and mess with girls, but that’s what a comedian does. I’m like, “Let me get this done and we can play later.”
What’s the latest with your documentary?
I got my own "Who Is Shad Moss?" documentary. I‘m shooting that right as we speak—cameras on me right now and it’s hard. I’ve been filming for six months. It’s been a long process. It might take longer than I thought because I want to make sure it’s right. If I make movies—of course I want my documentary movie to be right. I won’t put it out until it’s right. I think this is relatively big. I’m even thinking about taking it to the film festivals and the whole nine yards, getting my agent involved, especially coming off these two movies I’m doing. [Note: Bow Wow was recently cast in “Tyler Perry's Madea’s Big Happy Family”]
Are there any more collabos with Brandon in the works?
If it happens, of course I would love to work with him again. He just wrapped “Big Momma’s House Three” and he’s doing his thing, I got another movie I’m getting ready to start and it just depends on where our careers meet up. I’m glad we had the chance to do it twice and if it happens again then I’m ready for it.
Why should people see “The Lottery Ticket”?
It’s a great film. It covers all bases. It’s a lot of things that people can relate to and it’s just a good family-friendly film that you can take your girl to, your kids to. There’s a strong message behind this movie and a real story behind it. I hope that’s what people take from it when they leave the theater.
"The Lottery Ticket" is in theaters Friday.